Brandon Broll admits that being a maverick in our world can be hard, but “why ever not ?” he challenges. “Imagine you can do anything. Try not to get boxed into one dimension. People aspire to living their life in one dimension. Isn’t life bigger than that ?”
It may be an incredible aspiration, or just the non-plussed, penetrating and passionate way he views the world, that Brandon Broll mentions Leonardo da Vinci as an example of who to aspire to be. The great Renaissance scientist, medical mind and anatomist, engineer, inventor, poet, musician, writer, artist and sculptor extraordinaire.
The extraordinary thing is that like Leonardo, Brandon has become an expert in almost everything he has put his mind to. The picture you see above of Doctor Electric (a nickname) is true. As incongruous as that sounds, you see a sparky with a PhD ! And not just one PhD… And he wasn’t a fully qualified electrician before he earned his doctorate… he became an electrician afterwards !
That doctoral gown you see is a Birkbeck College, University of London, doctorate in history. When he entered the examination room to take his viva in this doctoral degree, two full professors of history stood, shook his hand, and announced he’d passed. Without corrections needed. Both of them knew that his background was actually in science.
Yet they did not know that as a poet his biography appeared regularly in the International Who’s Who in Poetry and Poets Encyclopaedia. And if they heard he was the author of the international bestselling science book Microcosmos, he kept very quiet about giving up a successful career in medical journalism to earn his money as an electrical engineer. “People don’t like you revealing too much. So I keep quiet and get on with it.”
Brandon Broll always imagined himself as a wildlife biologist in South Africa, the place of his birth, and it wasn’t a dream, he made it a reality from a young age. Chameleons were his favourite pets. Graduating with distinction in zoology and botany from the University of Cape Town, he was fast tracked into postgraduate studies, researching the eusocial naked mole-rat.
But just as he was about to complete his doctorate in science, a disagreement between him and his supervisor got him expelled. It was at the height of apartheid and by then he was chairman of the Civil Rights League of South Africa, publishing political poetry and journalism against racism and injustice. When the apartheid army demanded he join them, he fled to London as a political refugee with a novel in hand titled The Unseen Genius. The title originates from a poem by Milton.
“I understand how Leonardo da Vinci was misunderstood,” he says. “Some of his works appeared in his own time, but much, like his scientific and philosophical notebooks and sketches, were kept private, hidden from others doubly through his mirror writing.”
So how much do we know about the works of Brandon Broll ? “Hah,” he laughs. “Most of it, you don’t !” It seems as if, every time a work of his becomes public, there is an impact. Without ever publishing a book of poetry he was recognised in the international biographical encyclopaedia for world poets, but as a poet he remains unknown. Likewise, his science book Microcosmos received rave reviews in America, UK and Europe, with the German edition published by National Geographic. Yet he got no royalties for it.
“It’s better that the true maverick goes by unseen,” he says. “Or else it can get you into trouble”. For Brandon, his life remains largely anonymous in London. “That’s good. It helps me in my work”. He is married with two sons. He is a working electrician, among other things. Cannily, he owns a number of properties rented out. All of his direct family live in South Africa and his mother lives in a property in Cape Town he bought for her.
On the horizon, there are books he is writing, others he is planning to write, and much he has written which should be published. During the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, Brandon released a long poem titled Still-life of a Pandemic, published in paperback through Amazon, ebook through Kindle, and in audiobook through Audible. Unsurprisingly, it has garnered praise. It appears that we may be seeing many more books by Brandon Broll as he has founded the publishing company Riols Quarter Ltd.